Human Biology Open Access Pre-Prints

Document Type


Anticipated Volume


Anticipated Issue



With the current surge of simulation studies in archaeology there is a growing concern for the lack of engagement and feedback between modellers and domain specialists. To facilitate this dialogue I present a compact guide to the simulation modelling process applied to a common research topic and the focus of this special issue of Human Biology—human dispersals. The process of developing a simulation is divided into nine steps grouped in three phases. The conceptual phase consists of identifying research questions (step 1) and finding the most suitable method (step 2), designing the general framework and the resolution of the simulation (step 3) and then by filling in that framework with the modelled entities and the rules of interactions (step 4). This is followed by the technical phase of coding and testing (step 5), parameterising the simulation (step 6) and running it (step 7). In the final phase the results of the simulation are analysed and re-contextualised (step 8) and the findings of the model are disseminated in publications and code repositories (step 9). Each step will be defined and characterised and then illustrated with examples of published human dispersals simulation studies. While not aiming to be a comprehensive textbookstyle guide to simulation, this overview of the process of modelling human dispersals should arm any non-modeller with enough understanding to evaluate the quality, strengths and weaknesses of any particular archaeological simulation and provide a starting point for further exploration of this common scientific tool.